Almost every job interview will contain the dreaded question about your greatest strengths and weaknesses. The former shouldn’t be too difficult to respond to - you know your own strengths. You will undoubtedly do your best to link your strengths to the skills required for the role you’re applying for too. But when it comes to weaknesses, this can be a challenging question to answer. 

The temptation is to turn a strength into a weakness, such as saying you’re too much of a perfectionist. But interviewers will see straight through this strategy, and won’t feel like you’ve addressed the question properly. So what weaknesses should you bring up? And how should you word your response? We’ve explored this topic in a little more detail below!

Why Are You Asked About Weaknesses?

There’s a reason this is such a popular question during an interview. And it’s not just to make you feel uncomfortable! The reason interviewers ask you about your weaknesses is to get a better understanding of your personality. How suitable are you for the role doesn’t just depend on your skills and experience - it’s also about culture fit. So the business needs to know that your personality won’t clash with other members of the team. 

Admitting that you have flaws furthermore demonstrates that you are self aware. If you were to claim you had no weaknesses, you’d probably come across as arrogant, or perhaps simply deluded. By being honest about the areas you are less proficient in, you’re indicating that you are capable of analysing your own work, and can hopefully act on that analysis, improving your performance.

Choosing a Weakness to Discuss in an Interview

There are a number of things to keep in mind when talking about your greatest weaknesses in an interview setting. It goes without saying that you need to consider your audience - if you’re being interviewed by your potential new boss, discussing your lack of respect for authority probably wouldn’t go down too well. But you also need to make sure that your answer is relevant. For example, if you’re applying for a job as a mechanical engineer, you can’t choose a flaw that won’t be pertinent to the role, such as the inability to speak a foreign language.

In order to choose your ‘best’ weakness, there are a number of other things to consider. Before you decide on your answer, it may be a good idea to go through the three points below:

  • Have you overcome this weakness, or is it still ongoing? If the weakness doesn’t have a positive outcome, it should be avoided
  • Does the weakness stop you from performing your job properly? For instance, if you’re working to get better at public speaking, but applying to be a lecturer, that’s not a flaw you should mention 
  • Is your weakness actually a strength in disguise? Your interviewer may call you up on it if you don’t give a genuine answer

Essentially, you need to come up with a weakness that you’re already taking steps to overcome, which doesn’t directly impact your job, and isn’t just a strength you’ve made to sound like a weakness.

group of people working together in an office

What is Your Greatest Weakness?

It can be difficult to actually answer this question, even once you’ve decided on the weakness you’re going to share. How do you provide an answer without endangering your chances of being offered the job?

The best way to answer the question about your greatest weakness is to outline an area that’s not your strong point, provide an example of how it’s impacted you professionally, and then explain how you overcame that weakness. Or if you’re still working towards conquering your weakness, describe the steps you have taken, and plan to take moving forward.

Example Answers

Make sure you’re fully prepared to answer this question, and perhaps have a second answer ready, in case you’re asked to go through more than one weakness. We’ve outlined a few common weaknesses given in interviews below, to give you an idea of what to say. 

I Sometimes Take on Too Much

I often had difficulty saying no to others, when they asked me to take on a new task. This meant that I would take on more work than I could handle, and had to push back deadlines. I now use a project management tool, which allows me to schedule my time more effectively, and see when I will have the time to help others with additional tasks.

I Don’t Always Ask for Help

I have generally worked independently throughout my career, so can have difficulty asking for help when I need it. In the past, I didn't always speak to other members of my team about tasks when I should have, which meant the project took longer to complete than necessary. Since I recognised this weakness, I have started making a conscious effort to consult my colleagues about tasks that I struggle with. This has meant that work gets completed faster, and I have also learnt from my team, when they have knowledge of a particular system or procedure that I’m lacking in.

I’m Not as Confident As I’d Like

My biggest weakness is that I sometimes lack confidence. This has meant that I’ve had trouble speaking up in groups - even when I have great ideas, I’m not always comfortable sharing them in front of an audience. To try and overcome this, I have started attending drama classes, and have begun taking small parts on stage. I also make sure that my managers are aware of my confidence levels, so that they’re more likely to address me directly in group meetings.

NEED SOME HELP WITH YOUR CV?

Perfecting your CV can be challenging. There's a lot to think about, from the layout and design to the written content. But there are a few simple ways to ensure you get these things right, such as using a CV checker. Simply click the button below to get a free check on your CV - you'll receive bespoke recommendations to improve your CV and your chances of landing a new job!

FREE CV CHECK